Seeds of Peace face different views of a shared past
Young Indian and Pakistani Seeds of Peace have recently been at the heart of a project to bring together different versions of Indian and Pakistani history. They have published a book called ‘The History Project’, which has been compiled by young people between the ages of 17 and 25, to encourage critical thinking, respect and tolerance among youth.
The young peacebuilders who started the project are all graduates of Seeds of Peace, an international organisation that trains young people from conflict zones in conflict resolution and management.
In 2001, at an annual Seeds of Peace meeting, they began a discussion about the different versions of Indian and Pakistani history in their school textbooks. Their talks became heated as they clashed over contrasting stories. Determined to keep the friendships they had made, they listened respectfully to each other. They realised that a lot of hatred and anger had been created in their countries by different versions of the same past.
They decided to put these different versions together in the same book so that young people would be able to see other perspectives of their countries’ past and decide for themselves which versions to accept.
They believe that by encouraging young people in Pakistan and India to think for themselves, they will help to grow respect, tolerance and peace.
The book covers the years from 1857 to 1947, focusing on 16 events including the formation of the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League, the Khilafat Movement, Direct Action Day and the Mountbatten Plan. It has been funded by Seeds of Peace, the British Council and Global Changemakers, an international youth network. Read more.
From peaceful schools to peaceful communities in Pakistan
Peaceful Schools International (PSI) is working in 25 Karachi schools to train young students in how to reject violence and spread peace. The initiative is supported by the United States Institute for Peace and will give young people the tools to resolve conflict, not only in schools, but in their wider communities.
Karachi has been shaken increasingly as sectarian and ethnic violence have claimed many lives. This PSI initiative empowers youth to stop the cycle of violence, giving them the skills and tools to build peace. Read more.
British Council news
Over the years as the British Council’s Active Citizen programme expanded in Pakistan, a need was felt to develop a platform where our Active Citizens could interact with each other, share their experiences, and have access to an open database of stories and ideas that they can implement in their communities.
Thus the Pull Pakistan idea was conceived. By creating a “social website with a conscience”, Pull Pakistan will support the Active Citizens programme in achieving social change locally by strengthening the existing network of young leaders and expanding it.
The name itself has different meanings. It is an acronym for Peace, Understanding, Leadership, Learning. On a more literary note, it is an Urdu term meaning bridges for connecting people. Pull Pakistan connects you to other Active Citizens across Pakistan; it connects you with us; but most importantly it brings to you stories about overcoming conflict, differences and violence in our society. It provides a platform to interact, exchange ideas and discuss local issues; to recognise diversity, value difference and promote tolerance across different regions of the country.
The platform offers:
- Personalised profiles: where young people can showcase all the great work they have done.
- A discussion forum: to share thoughts, opinions and interact with other members across the country.
- Live chat: to get to know each other, further strengthening our expanding network.
- Blogs: to list stories from our partners and active citizens, celebrate diversity and promote tolerance.
- Local heroes: a dedicated section to pay tribute to Active Citizens among us, whose courage and innovative ideas have made a difference to their communities.
- Inspirations: odes to the men and women who excelled in their field and depict all that is good about our country. Facilitating inspiration to emulate and follow for our young Pakistanis.
- Peace writers: an introduction to our budding writers and poets who have been using the power of the pen to promote peace and harmony amongst us all.
The website will go live by June 2013.
Yet another Year of Great Performance! Active Citizens Partners’ Annual Review Meeting
The Active Citizens programme in Pakistan held its Partners Annual review Meeting in Multan from 13 to 15 March 2013. Multan is located in the south of the most populated province of Pakistan. Faced with a variety of social, religious and sectarian conflicts, a critical mass of young people in this region are engaged in positive social change within their communities to counteract violence and extremism.
The event was co-conducted by the Active Citizens and Peace Direct teams. Ruairi Nolan, Head of Asia Programmes at Peace Direct, commented: “The Active Citizens Annual Review in Multan was a great opportunity to assess the reach and impact of the programme. Since each organisation brought a facilitator, a project coordinator and an Active Citizen, we were able to understand how the programme is working from several different perspectives.”
At the event, 35 implementing partners from across Pakistan were represented by their nominated partner coordinators, workshop facilitators and, most importantly, by a select group of enthusiastic Active Citizens. This group of young people have designed and implemented Social Action Projects (SAPs) on diverse ‘live’ conflict issues prevalent in their respective communities.
The SAP review session with the Active Citizens provided an opportunity to gain insight into lessons learnt and challenges faced while planning and implementing SAPs in communities. In addition, this provided a space to collectively explore ideas and planning steps that would support future participants of the Active Citizens programme in the successful implementation of SAPs.
“The Active Citizen training is an excellent programme for young people and has greatly enhanced my capacity,” said Sajida, an enthusiastic Active Citizen from the small town of Panu Aqil in Sindh. “Through participating in this training I was able to resolve a conflict in my community and for this I am thankful to the British Council.”
The feedback received from this session also provided relevant material to produce a short guide on carrying out successful peacebuilding SAPs. Once prepared and piloted with the current faction of partners, this valuable document will be disseminated among a wider audience, including people in government, donors, organisations, etc.
The partner facilitators are the first point of contact for Active Citizens with young people. Their understanding of content in line with the context is a vital step towards delivering successful workshops. A session with a group of 35 facilitators, who brought with them considerable experience, was an opportunity to reflect on the conflict resolution content and give insights into identifying room for improvement. This activity also created a space to collectively deliberate on the practical challenges experienced by facilitators when delivering the workshops, and to determine support that could enhance their experience.
While expressing his views, Taha Naqvi, a lead facilitator from Women Rights Association (WRA), Multan, said: “The Active Citizens programme is a platform where young people can share diverse thoughts and concepts to achieve one goal regarding responsible citizenship. Through this programme, we are learning to celebrate cultural diversity and transforming conflicts into opportunity.”
Monitoring and Evaluation is an integral ingredient in determining the impact of any community-based programme. The successful delivery of Active Citizens programme is dependent on how well the implementing partners, their coordinators, facilitators and, eventually, the young people deliver.
While the Active Citizens shared their views on SAPs, 60 participants, including facilitators and coordinators, went through a day-long session on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). This not only allowed the group to share their understanding and knowledge of M&E, but also view it more positively.
At the event, the participating Active Citizens had also set up stalls to showcase their SAPs. The work received many accolades and appreciation from city notables, politicians and educationalists visiting the exhibition.
The Annual Review Meeting in Multan concluded with a policy dialogue between members of provincial and national assemblies representing the leading political parties, and the partner organisations’ representatives, including facilitators, Active Citizens and coordinators. The base of discussion was how the youth of Pakistan can participate in the political process of the country. In conclusion, the panelists were assured that the forthcoming national elections (already held on the 11 of May 2013) will be crystal clear. They also felt this election should involve more young people as they are the flag bearers of the future of any successful country.
Meet the peacebuilders
Meet the peacebuilders: AZAT Foundation
Azat Foundation Balochistan (AFB) is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation, established in February 2003 by a group of young development professionals.
Since its inception, AFB has worked to ensure a peaceful and secure environment within communities. AFB’s goal is to eliminate poverty and violence from society by means of encouraging human rights and inculcating the culture of civic education. It has been in the forefront of organisations calling for the integration of civic education and human rights concepts into the entire society; not only at the local level, but also at the wider provincial level.
AFB’s goal is a unique one. They want to develop a trans-cultural approach to the ‘right to health’ and examine health in the context of people’s lives. It aims to move beyond the individualistic structure and instead take into account familial, social, cultural, political, religious and economic conditions. The model is based on analysing the links between health and human rights, focusing on development at a community level. Such a model has been developed through capacity building, professional advancement and professional credentialing.
AFB is proactive and innovative in efforts to alleviate inequalities in health, education and women’s rights, making family empowerment more accessible and culturally acceptable, while providing each individual with dignified service. It gained distinction for the critical analysis of links between health and human rights, and contributed creatively to the local, regional and global right to health movement and prevention of torture.
AFB has also been an active player in responding to disaster-affected communities in Jaffarabad, Naseerabad, Nushki, Kharan and Washuk districts in the province of Baluchistan. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) have implemented different projects in Jaffarabad and Naseerabad districts in partnership with AFB. These services have been ongoing and UNFAO and WFP have been providing food items to around 14,000 and 55,000 families respectively.
AFB has also been conducting market-based trade and skill training for young men and women. Since 2010, Azat Foundation has conducted skill development training in mobile repairing, electric wiring, livestock management, sewing and cutting, IT skills, auto mechanic, welding, plumbing and motor winding, with financial support from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Action Aid. Now, Azat Foundation has formally established Azat Vocational Institute (AVI) in Kharan, Chagai and Nushki districts, and these institutions are recognised and affiliated with Technical Testing Board (TTB) of the manpower department of the government of Balochistan
Azat Foundation says of its partnership with the British Council: “The British Council is a partner we really value and trust. On the ground, around the world, they have the access, contacts and people to make things happen.
“Even though we have been working with different national and international donors and organisations since 2004, the British Council’s approach to implement its programmes through partner organisations was a unique and welcome one. Our experience of working with the British Council in three districts of Balochistan helped us strengthen our professional skills and supported us in building networks, synergies and linkages with other organisations.
“The Active Citizens programme model is productive because it focuses on not just strengthening and capacitating youth groups but also enables them to launch SAPs and get their whole community involved. It is the embodiment of the philosophy of ‘putting learning into practice’.”
Breaking down Barriers
Tribal culture is deeply embedded in our history, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Balochistan, where even today communities are divided into tribes and clans. These tribes and clans are paramount in people’s lives. Belonging to them entails complete acceptance to their codes of conduct and important decrees; whereas non-compliance with these rules can result in serious repercussions.
A tribe typically consists of people who share ancestors and are often related by blood. Each individual represents the tribe he or she belongs to, and similarly the tribe represents that individual. Due to this firm bond between the tribe and tribesmen, the tribe is generally held responsible for the actions of one individual often resulting in long drawn-out feuds and conflicts between two tribes.
Such a situation confronted Kamran Khan Baloch, an Active Citizen living in Kulli, Balochistan. His village, predominantly occupied by the Mengal tribe, was suffering because a school that was built by the Azad Foundation Balochistan had been shut for a year. Kamran became aware of this issue when, on his visit to the village, he was informed by the leader of the tribe that a school in the village was closed due to a longstanding tribal dispute. The only teacher available to teach at that school belonged to the rival Badini tribe, but due to bad blood between the two tribes, the elders of the Mengal tribe were opposed to the idea of a Badini educating their children. Hence, an impasse was reached after which the school was shut down.
Kamran realised how regressive it was to keep the children’s education hostage to tribal customs, and resolved to reopen the school under any conditions. Trained in the Active Citizens programme, Kamran was adept at diplomatically resolving matters, and so he and his team worked relentlessly for the cause of education, ensuring that in 18 days the conflict was resolved and the school reopened.
During follow-up visits to the school, Kamran saw that everyone, including the teacher, students and other community members, was happy at the school’s reopening. Even the Sardar of the tribe expressed his gratitude, commenting on how the renewal of classes in the school would have a far-reaching impact on the well-being of the community. Kamran believes that the skills he learnt during the Active Citizens training were well utilized, including leadership, diplomacy and conflict resolution skills.
Since the completion of the project, Kamran has been trying to further reduce the tensions that exist between these two tribes, so that a more peaceful and tolerant atmosphere can be established in the community. To a large extent he has been successful in allaying the hostilities between them, encouraging them towards dialogue so that an amicable environment in the community can be maintained.
Keeping a Molehill, a Molehill!
Disagreements are a typical scenario in small neighbourhoods - one neighbour commits a minor transgression that incurs the wrath of the other. Be it wayward pets that wander off into hostile terrain, or mischievous children who like to to ring the doorbell and run, neighbours are always irked by the actions or inactions of those that live around them.
An Active Citizen, Naseebullah Aumbrani, narrates one such incident at the village of Darya Barot Ghulam Jan, where a disgruntled neighbour exacerbated a situation because of his anger, turning a petty issue into a matter of serious concern. Naseebullah describes how one day trash was dumped outside a family’s home by a child who lived nearby. Upon his return from work, the father of the house saw the trash lying in front of his house and was quite upset. His children said that the trash was not theirs and had actually been dumped there by a boy named Shahnawaz, son of their neighbor Mr Ali Khan. Angered by this piece of information, he stormed out of the house only to meet Mr Khan’s elder son Shabbir on his way. Upset about the trash being dumped outside his front door, he didn’t think twice about giving Shabbir a piece of his mind.
Unaware of why he was being yelled at, Shabbir complained about the incident to his father and Mr Khan, angry that his son had been scolded so harshly, went over to inquire directly from his neighbour. The conversation failed to remain civil and soon a huge fight was underway. In order to have more people by their side during the fight, both parties called their relatives. An innocuous, possibly inadvertent mistake made by a child escalated into a fight where both parties had daggers drawn.
Naseebullah, after completing his four day training with the Active Citizens programme, was searching for a SAP wherein he could use his skills of conflict resolution. He heard his friends talk about this dispute between two neighbours. However, by the time Naseebullah came to know about the fight, matters had become quite dire. Gauging the sensitivity and importance of the issue, he thought that, if left unresolved, it might become a bigger problem for the community. Deciding that action needed to be taken. In this regard, he gathered a group of respected elders from the community and explained to them the entire situation. With the help of these elders, Naseebullah was able to allay the tempers of both parties, tactfully putting forward the facts to clear the misunderstanding. Due to the timely and sensible efforts of Naseebullah, the conflict was soon resolved and once again peace prevailed in the community.
Through his SAP, which effectively resolved the conflict, Naseebullah had set a great precedent for the resolution of all future disputes in Loralai. After the resolution of this conflict, he is looked to as a peacemaker in his community; people now come to him, seeking his help in many important community matters. Since then, Naseeullah has solved many more disputes, now with a team of 10 to 15 like-minded people, who are eager to make a change in the community.
He believes that the training he received during the Active Citizens programme, and his association with the Active Citizens partner Society for Empowering Human Resource (SEHER), was instrumental in making his efforts successful. He says that working on the project instilled in him a desire to work for the betterment of his community, it inspired confidence and taught him how to tactfully handle crisis situations and solve people’s problems. Through the project, Naseebullah was also successful in establishing a network within the community that agreed with his cause and wanted to promote it.
Now that he has acquired the respect and trust of the people in his community, Naseebullah, in addition to working on resolving conflicts, is also urging people towards education. Moreover, he is still committed to the SAP and shows a staunch resolution to bring change in any capacity that he can.
Hungry no more
With over 22% of Pakistan’s population living on the poverty line, the basic commodity of food comes at a high price for many people in the country. A group of young people from Karachi have created the Al Qaim Resource Centre to provide poverty-stricken people in their community with more affordable food. By decreasing the mark-up added to basic foods by wholesellers and shop owners, they are lowering the prices so that food is more accessible to those in need.
The group pooled their own resources and started purchasing essential commodities like flour, rice, pulses and oil in bulk quantities and selling them at affordable prices. They started the SAP in a poor area of the city, where a stall was set up from which about 20 families were able to purchase commodities at prices lower than the market rate.
The SAP received a private donation which enabled them to expand their operations. To date, 500 families from seven underprivileged areas of Karachi have benefited from this project. The group plan to expand their project to other areas of the city.
Dr Gillani speaks on role of youth in politics
Dr Ijaz Shafi Gillani, Chairman Gallup Pakistan, recently spoke at the Youth Parliament Pakistan on the importance of youth in the electoral process. He stressed that political parties have given new attention to the power of youth, seeing them as more important now than ever before. He urged the youth not to get caught up in violence. Read more.
Caritas Peacebuilding Initiatives across borders: training young leaders
Caritas Pakistan has initiated a one year project, from November 2012 to November 2013, on ‘Peace Building Initiatives across borders’. The mission of the project is to be a platform for building networks of knowledge, support, and advocacy in regions experiencing communal violence and hatred. The cornerstone of the program is to provide students and young leaders with the opportunity to obtain a unique and in-depth perspective on the realities in Pakistan and neighboring countries, by engaging in dialogue, cultural exchange and formation of peace clubs, and creating awareness among communities about peacebuilding. Read more.
Youth Parliament Pakistan demands ban is lifted from Youtube
The Youth Parliament Pakistan recently resumed the discussion on a resolution which asked to uplift the ban on Youtube. The ban is seen as against the freedom of information enshrined in the article 19 of the constitution. Read more.
Youth District Democracy Forums: UNDEF and CDA creating youth engagement
The Chanan Development Association (CDA) collaborated with the United Nations Democracy Fund and the Provincial Youth Assembly to organize a District Democracy Forum to create a dialogue between political candidates and youth, women and minority representatives. This forum also becomes the first forum and starter of UNDEF and CDA's democracy project in 25 districts of Pakistan. CDA Facebook page.
UK champions a greater role for Commonwealth youth
In April, Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire MP attended the Commonwealth Youth Ministers’ Meeting (CYMM) to discuss involvement of young people in current affairs: “Nearly two thirds of the Commonwealth is under the age of 30, and we can’t afford to underestimate their value or their potential. With the impact of challenges such as global warming and unemployment ever starker, we will be looking to the younger generation for answers…. The CYMM plays a large part in deciding the future priorities of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, an international development agency working with young people between 15 and 29 years old. The discussions will also feed into the United Nations High Level Panel on the post 2015 development goals, and to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo in November 2013.” Read more.
British Council Next Generation report: Overview
“The Next Generation aims to spark debate on how the country can transform itself to harness the potential of its young people. The project, led by a Task Force of eminent public figures, marks the most comprehensive investigation ever into the attitudes and needs of Pakistan's youth.” Read more.
USIP assessment of election results
“In the wake of Pakistan’s general elections, USIP experts comment on the vote’s high turnout and discuss the significance of the elections for Pakistan’s democratic future. It was the first Pakistan election in which a civilian government recognized as democratically elected, completed a full term and will hand over to another democratically elected civilian administration.” Read more.
UN Secretary General speech to the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, "Shaping Tomorrow's Innovators"
“Working with youth is one of my top priorities as Secretary-General. That is because young leaders have the energy and ideas we need to change our world. We need to marshal your expertise and your compassion to address the terrible problems in our world. Global crises are hitting young people especially hard. Youth unemployment is an enormous problem affecting nearly 74 million people from their mid-teens to their mid-twenties. Hundreds of millions of young people are directly affected by conflict, which can rob them of their homes, their families and their futures. And young people will inherit the planet – our one planet earth – from older generations who are too often exploiting natural resources instead of protecting them. These are serious problems. We live at a time of transition and turmoil. But there are also great opportunities. You can help us rise to the challenges by being a global citizen. Youth have always had ideals. The difference with all of you – the largest generation of youth in history – is that you can use social networks to demand change. You can mobilize. You can raise your voices. And you can achieve meaningful results.” Read more.
NOREF Report: Poverty and radicalisation: causal link?
“The consensus in past research into terrorism and radicalisation into violent extremism (RVE) is that generally there is no link between poverty and radicalisation, and if such a link exists, it is a weak one. However, insufficient attention has been paid to how terrorism has changed over the last few years to become a phenomenon that frequently occurs in weak, conflict-ridden states. In these states, poverty seems to play an essential role especially with regard to the motivation of suicide bombers. In the case of Pakistan, a current hotbed of terrorism, little research has been done on this issue and what little research that has been conducted points in opposite directions. However, more recent research has concluded that RVE and terrorism have to be researched in each country/area where terrorism exists and conclusions cannot be generalised to all countries. There is reason to believe that there is a causal link between poverty and RVE, especially in countries such as Pakistan, where there are high levels of poverty and militant groups both recruit and supply social services, and where poverty-stricken young men have few livelihood options other than that of joining a militant group.” Read more.
NOREF Report: The evolving role of women in Pakistani politics
“In Pakistan’s upcoming general elections on March 11th 2013 only 36 women are contesting general National Assembly seats on political party tickets, up from 34 in the 2008 elections. This low number contradicts overall trends whereby a growing number of women are contesting elections as independent candidates and more women are registered to vote than ever before. Despite these indicators, Pakistan’s political parties have done little in this election cycle to facilitate women’s participation in the political process. This is owing to fears of low female voter turnout and the consequence of local government systems that have prevented political parties from cultivating female candidates at the grass-roots level.” Read more.